A Minnesota meteorologist has filed a lawsuit against his former TV station and its parent company saying he was fired last year for being gay.
Sven Sundgaard was dismissed from his position at TV station KARE 11 in Minneapolis last May after he reposted a comment on social media from a rabbi regarding ongoing protests in the city at the time.
Minneapolis Rabbi Michael Adam Latz had written on Facebook calling some gun-toting protestors “white nationalist Nazi sympathizer gun fetishist miscreants.”
Sundgaard deleted his repost later that evening after receiving homophobic comments and threats. He also expressed his regret to the station’s executives promising to stick to the weather.
But the next day, the station announced it had decided to ‘part ways’ with the weatherman “due to continued violations of KARE 11’s news ethics and other policies,” reports the Star Tribune.
In the new lawsuit filed on Thursday, attorneys for Sundgaard say the station’s human resources department ignored the meteorologist’s reports of harassment and discrimination during his time with KARE11.
Specific instances include Sundgaard claiming a station manager criticized him for appearing on the cover of the local LGBTQ publication Lavender; being reprimanded for making a ‘size really does matter’ remark on-air during a report on Minnesota’s many lakes; and attempting to stop him from speaking at a convention of LGBTQ journalists.
He also says he felt his religious beliefs came under scrutiny when a colleague asked probing questions like whether he believed Jesus was the Messiah after he converted to Judaism in 2010.
The lawsuit claims Sundgaard “suffered and continues to suffer emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, pain and suffering.” He is suing for back pay as well as punitive damages.
Following the filing of the lawsuit last week, Sundgaard issued a statement which read, “I’ve been overwhelmed and forever grateful for the outpouring of support I have received over the last year.”
“I hope to continue to receive your support as I embark upon this difficult journey that will highlight the unfair treatment to which I was subjected,” he continued. “While a lawsuit is not ideal for anyone, I believe it is important to take action to prevent what happened to me from happening to others. I do this also, for the countless young people who have thanked me for being an openly gay man, making it easier for them to be true to themselves.”
He closed his statement saying, “My late mom always taught me to stick up for myself.”
KARE 11, and its parent company TENGA, denied the allegations in a statement issued via email.
“One of our core values as a station is inclusion,” wrote a KARE spokesperson on Friday afternoon. “We are committed to maintaining a respectful workplace free from all forms of discrimination and harassment.”
Since his dismissal, Sundgaard has been reporting the weather at Bring Me The News.